Back in 2000, the first X-Men movie came out, and the film was largely lauded by fans and critics. It’s viewed as one of the films that helped launch the current trend of comic book superhero movies by showing that it was possible to make a film from that material without entirely sucking. The film’s success spawned a number of sequels and spinoffs that have continued to this day with the recently released Dark Phoenix.
There’s little debate that Dark Phoenix and X-Men: Apocalypse, the last two films in the franchise, are two of the worst the series has produced. I’d even go a step further and say that I find the franchise as a whole to be little more than “above average.” Most of the films that others view as great, are, you know, fine. Having said that, there’s no denying that there are absolutely moments of pure brilliance in the franchise. As we say goodbye to the X-Men, Here are a few of the reasons the X-Men movies won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
The Original Cast
People had been dreamcasting an X-Men movie for years before the real thing actually happened. Patrick Stewart‘s name was already on the top of every list to play Professor Charles Xavier, even if the only real reason was that he was a well known older actor who was also bald. Of course, Stewart turned out to be the perfect Professor X, while a largely unknown actor named Hugh Jackman would become a movie star thanks to his perfect portrayal as Wolverine.
But the rest of that original cast is no less inspired. Halle Berry was perfectly cast, and criminally underused, as Storm. James Marsden and Famke Janssen are a fantastic Scott and Jean. The thing that makes the first X-Men movie work as well as it does is that the characters jumped off the comic page and onto the screen pretty much exactly as we’d all imagined them.
X2: Nightcrawler’s White House Attack
While the original X-Men movie was a solid first effort, most would agree that X2 is where the series found its stride, and it did that from the very first scene. For a comic book movie, the original X-Men has little in the way of great action set pieces, but Nightcrawler’s assault on the White House at the beginning of X2 changes all that.
It starts the film on a perfect note by introducing another popular character as well as another excellent piece of casting in Alan Cumming. Nightcrawler instantly becomes one of the most fun characters to watch. Like some other action sequences that would come later, and will come later on this list, the scene is almost a short film all by itself.
X-Men: First Class
Following the conclusion of the X-Men trilogy, we were supposed to get a series of spinoff solo features including an origin story for fan favorite Wolverine, as well as one for Magneto. While that first movie did get made, and won’t get discussed on this list for obvious reasons, the second did not, and instead it morphed into an entire prequel franchise that started with X-Men: First Class.
While I will forever wonder what a solo Magneto movie starring Michael Fassbender could have been, First Class is an excellent film in its own right. It’s the best main franchise film without question. It has another stellar cast and is simply near perfect from start to finish.
Quicksilver as a character never really develops beyond his initial appearance in X-Men: Days of Future Past. He largely exists as a digital effects gimmick, but it has to be said, it’s a pretty solid gimmick. Showing super speed on screen is always tough, because it’s hard to actually see anything, but DOFP solved that problem by slowing everything else down and letting Quicksilver move through it all at a leisurely pace. The pop music soundtrack is also a nice touch.
Quicksilver’s scene stealing moment was so popular the first time around that he was given another chance to shine in X-Men: Apocalypse. If anything, the second time around it’s even more impressive, though that may just be because the rest of the movie was weaker by comparison.
Days Of Future Past’s Reboot
Overall, I’m a bit more lukewarm on X-Men: Days of Future Past than most. I think it’s a fine movie, a good one even, but maybe not as great as some would claim. However, there is one aspect of Days of Future Past, which is absolutely stellar: the end.
The events of DOFP reboot the entire X-Men universe. Characters who had died come back to life and a terrible future is avoided. While this does have the added benefit of erasing a couple of terrible movies from “canon.” It also just works as a beautiful capstone on the franchise. This is where the X-Men movies should have ended. There was no need to make anymore movies after this.
Deadpool is really only barely connected to the X-Men universe. It’s all so tongue in cheek that I considered not even including the Merc with a Mouth on this list. However, the fact is the two Deadpool films wouldn’t exist were it not for the rest of the X-Men franchise, and our lives would be all the poorer for it.
There’s a reason that Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool might be the only part of this entire franchise to survive the Disney acquisition. He’s hilarious. He’s exciting. He’s just plain fun. Deadpool’s character gives him a freedom to have more fun with the X-Men universe than the rest of the movies are allowed to have. Superhero movies are great, but sometimes you need to be able to laugh at them, and Deadpool gives us that release.
While Days of Future Past maybe should have been the final entry in the main X-Men film series, the real end of the franchise should have come from Logan. Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine was the linchpin of the entire series and once we said goodbye to him, there was really nothing left to add.
Logan is an incredibly unique and interesting movie. From a story perspective, it doesn’t actually require you to know anything about any of the previous films and stands completely alone. At the same time, to experience the film’s full weight and power you have to have gone on the same two decade long journey that Hugh Jackman himself experienced playing the role of Wolverine.
It’s easy to focus on the bad, especially considering where the X-Men franchise is today. Things have not ended well. However, while it would be easy to write off the franchise now that a reboot is all but assured, we shouldn’t forget what the X-Men movies did right the first time around.